Summer School group at Ballyhaise House, Co. Cavan
This year’s ‘Conservation Without Frontiers’ summer school took place in Co. Fermanagh and Cavan. The 3-day school focused on exploring many challenges facing Irish towns, and the opportunities for enhancement through sustainable heritage-led regeneration to benefit built heritage, the local economy and the wider community. It was exciting, refreshing and re-assuring to see such important subject matters being tied back to our current and most relevant concerns, such as climate change.
Students pictured at the Cole Monument (1845-57), Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh on the first day of the summer school
Guilty to admit, but before attending the summer school, I had imagined the three days to be a series of tedious lectures on histories of architecture or perhaps monotonous speeches on historic plasterwork. It was exactly the opposite of my naive expectations. Student participation was central to the summer school; and in a sense this school assisted us in bridging the gaps between our academies by introducing us to tangible conservation and significant heritage issues.
In this short blog, I could tell you about the amazing sites and buildings we’ve been to, the humorous pub quiz evenings we’ve had, the new connections we’ve made or perhaps describe how spoilt we felt after all the food, wine, coffee and jam scones we’ve received and so much more. However, in this blog, I would like to highlight a few of the many important lessons that I had learnt during these wonderful couple of days. Lessons which I may not have learnt if it wasn’t for this school.
Alistair Rowan at Florencecourt, Co. Fermanagh
The first day of the school kicked-off by underlining several pressing issues on vital topics such as vast vacancy, town-planning, governing systems and adaptive re-use. Professor Alistair Rowan had nailed an excellent talk on the buildings of Fermanagh, where he not only raised awareness in terms of preservation dilemmas, but also encouraged us to always question our stance and ethics towards conservation. ‘Should some buildings be conserved in a specific way? If so, how? Is it the right thing to do? How can we integrate the new with the old in conservation?’ I found this interrogating aspect extremely valuable, as it makes us question the norms and current standards in preserving our heritage, hence bringing them under a new light.
Dr Philip Crowe of Space Engagers presenting in the Methodist Hall, Enniskillen
Later, Dr Philip Crowe explored international case studies with us such as Scotland, Denmark and France, on how vacancy data is created and used, and further elaborated on incentives for the reuse of vacant buildings in town centres for sustainable communities. Speaking of our UN SDGs and natural limited resources, Dr Crowe pointed out that ‘vacancy’ itself should be viewed as not only vacant space but rather as a waste of spatial resource which is highly limited.
Architect Miriam Delany's 'Free Market' presentation in Enniskillen for CWF summer school 2019 (Image: Ian Lennon)
Miriam Delaney had brought the 2018 Venice Biennale to us by describing the Irish Pavilion ‘Free Market’ which explored the common space of market towns across Ireland. These places have undergone fundamental change in recent times, especially due to increased car-parking areas, while the markets’ purpose as spaces of exchange and congregation has weakened sufficiently. With the exposure at the Biennale, these small towns resonated on an international scale and has once again reinforced the need to preserve townships and settlements as distinct urban morphologies in an era of increasing mobilisation and urbanisation.
Summer school students gathered outside the Masonic Hall, Co. Cavan for the 2nd day of CWF summer school
The second day opened in the Masonic Hall in Cavan where Romy Kanitz elaborated on the hands-on practice behind architectural conservation in Ireland. She described not only its theory, but the actual practical working process which they undertook in the refurbishment of Cavan Town Hall, elaborating on the challenges and the decision factors which informed each step of the project. Conservation works can often bring about different corporate structures and cultures, where the involvement of multiple organizations such as consultants, contractors and suppliers are assembled as a team. Romy highlighted the most important factor in their process and perhaps a lesson for all, which was strong communication and organization skills.
Viktoria Hevesi (TUD), Conor Hamill, Angela Reuda (TUD/OPW), Primrose Wilson, Edward McParland, Zinnie Denby-Mann (UCEM) and director Kevin V. Mulligan outside Kilmore Parochial Hall, Co. Cavan
The summer school encompassed many subjects through site visits, tours, lectures. We explored many current built-heritage case studies in order to consider different approaches to the integration of heritage into the wider social, economic and environmental context. I could fill an entire book with all the things I’ve learnt from everyone throughout the three days. Thank you to all the organizers, volunteers and everybody involved in this brilliant program to give us these wonderful opportunities. I look forward to attending even more events organized by the UAHS/IGS.
Viktoria Hevesi, Architecture student, Technological University Dublin
The 2019 Conservation without Frontiers summer school was supported by Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, Cavan County Council, Department of Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht under the Co-operation with Northern Ireland Funding Scheme, The Apollo Foundation and Hamilton Architects.